Devotionals · God's Word · Pondering

For I Was Hungry…

My maternal great grandfather sought refuge in this country, searching for work, an income. My paternal great, great, great grandfather sought refuge in this country to escape religious persecution.

Today, many seek refuge in this United States of America due to fear of violence, gangs, drug cartels, dictators, and so much more.

Inside the lower pedestal of The Statue of Liberty is this sonnet by Emma Lazarus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”[11]

This poem was written as a donation for an auction of art and literary works[3] conducted by the “Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty” to raise money for the pedestal’s construction. “Bartholdi’s gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of international republicanism, but ‘The New Colossus’ reinvented the statue’s purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world.”[16]. The swarms of immigrants knocking on the Eastern shore of this United States quickly turned the statue into a welcoming-harbor greeter.

So I write this with a heavy heart which I have held for years, more so, these past four years. I have seen pictures of migrants, refugees, young, old, with all range of skin shade pigmentation standing, crying, grasping, yelling, crawling, swimming, climbing, and drowning to get into this country. Babies and children of all ages torn from parents’ arms. Four years later, we have 628 children (now) whose parents cannot be found (although just this past week of December 1, 2020, knowledge of phone numbers has been brought to our attention). Even though, my heart breaks. Tears roll down my face as I type these words.

This is not the America that my grandparents sought those many years ago.

Yes, we have had problems throughout our history. We have lived with segregation, racial injustice, the KKK. Women have had to fight for the right to vote, for equal pay, for the ability to obtain a job that once only men held. We had the Civil War…the South against the North. We have taken land and rights from Indigent Peoples. Yes, this nation is far from perfect.

My great, great grandfather was Italian. He was not liked by the immigrants who came before the Italians. I have Irish immigrants and Scottish immigrants as my kin. They were not liked by their predecessors. It seemed like each group wanted to close the gates, not allowing anyone else in to this country. (This still happens as people move from state to state or area to area, desiring to close the gate once they have found a beautiful place.).

Yet, my mother grew up in Chicago at the turn of the last century in a neighborhood made up of Italians, Irish, Russians, Polish, Jewish, Catholics, Protestants. They loved one another. My grandmother even raised the 6 Bates girls who became orphans when both Russian parents died. Grandma was Irish/English/German. Mama loved to help a widow and her daughter make dinner because the food was Jewish, something different from her own fare. During the Depression, if a family could afford to make bread or soup or both, they would share with those who did not have enough. It was the way it was on Mama’s block of immigrants.

The United States of America seems not to be the UNITED states in some substantial aspects. We are broken.

That melanin of the skin is so distinguishable, not only by black and brown and white, but red and blue, bigot and humanitarian, racist/supremacist and equalitarian/humanitarian, and on and on!

Upon looking up the antonyms of several words, I found “bigot” to mean “one who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” Words of opposite definition of “bigot” include: liberal, moderate, conservative, middle-of-the-road, militant. Does that not cover just about all of us? So how can we all come from various and unique backgrounds and be a united people? The real question is…how can we NOT?

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

I want to love unconditionally. That is hard. But I want to.

I desire to be united with my brothers and sisters, my neighbors, my church family. Speaking out about concerns and issues can bring unrequested wrath from people I love. I do not handle that well. AT ALL!

God has called us to love.

By His Word, God leads us in the ways in which He wants us to walk. Again and again! …

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You?  And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:31-40

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

To keep oneself unstained from the world” … “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”… oh, I need Your help, Father. Please hold me still, guarding the words of my mouth, whether verbally or through the written word. I am sorry for words I have uttered recently that drew unexpected words from others. Forgive me, LORD, even though they were words I am feeling. I need to not be drawn into these worldly concerns. Your ways are infinitely better, LORD. Infinitely. In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” Zechariah 7:9-10

learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
Isaiah 1:17

Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jeremiah 22:3

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Father God, I am sorry for those times and situations when I betrayed You because I did not love, did not give, did not do unto You for I did not do unto the least of those in need. I am truly sorry. As I walk through life for the remainder of my days, please guide my steps, my words, and my actions…that I would be obedient to Your call. I know through my mother’s own stories of our relatives that times were not always easy being a stranger in a strange land. I also know through my mother’s voice that people did learn to get along, to love one another, to wrap their arms around everyone no matter the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their temperament. She taught me and my sisters to love as You teach us. I pray for this nation and this world. I pray for the emigrants who have left their home country and are desiring to enter a new country, possibly the USA. I pray, that one day soon, the opportunity, the gates, will be opened to them. I pray for the DACA children/adults who were brought into the USA innocently with a parent and have known only the United States as their home. I pray for those 628 children who are still in custody in the United States whose parents cannot be found. You know where every single one is. Please unite those precious children with their parents, LORD. They are lambs who need the Shepherd to reunite them with those who bore them. I pray for everyone who is running away from a scary, violent situation who need a new home. Father, You know each one of them around the world. I ask You to guide us as a people to wrap our arms around them. I pray all in the Name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

[11] The New Colossus – Lehman, David, ed. (2006). The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Oxford University Press. p. 184. OCLC 62697134

[3] Sutherland, Cara A (2003), The Statue of Liberty: The Museum of the City of New York, Barnes & Noble, p. 77, ISBN0-7607-3890-4auction of art and literary work; Mark Twain also contributed.

[16] Auster, Paul (2005), “NYC = USA”, Collected Prose: Autobiographical Writings, True Stories, Critical Essays, Prefaces, and Collaborations with Artists, Picador, p. 508, ISBN0-312-42468-X.

Graphic of Mark 12:30-31: https://www.heartlight.org

Graphic of Matthew 25: https://www.alittleperspective.com/february-04-bible-reading-2020/

Graphic of James 1:27: https://www.heartlight.org